Part 39: Ninja Gaiden Black: Post Game
Ninja Gaiden Black is a game with value. This is a game filled with content that isn't given to the average player on their first runthrough. With multiple difficulty settings that remix enemy and item placements, unlockable bonuses, and a challenging yet rewarding mission mode it would've been foolish if I didn't show off any of this after finishing the main game.
This is gonna be a long one, especially since most of these post-game changes still apply (mostly) to Sigma. And it's so long I had to split it into two fucking videos. Strap in.
Fierce new opponents have risen up and lie in wait for your return. Though you may traverse areas once thought conquered, you must not become complacent. To fail here is to disgrace the Ninja way.
When first entering Hard mode, it feels like a natural step up from what was seen at the end of the normal difficulty. Even with equipment fully reset it's still manageable at the outset. But there's some major changes that give you a glimpse at how much more hellish the higher two difficulties will be.
Much like Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden Black totally remixes and upgrades the enemy encounters throughout the game, a feature that showed up at its earliest during the first Hurricane Pack. Now it's part of the game right out of the box. How the remix works is that the enemies are categories into a sort of hierarchy. There are Humans, Humanoid Fiends, and Large Fiends, and the ones you fight on all the higher difficulties are harder enemies that replace the lower ones that you encounter on Normal. And while not every enemy gets a replacement, some of the ones that stay get some minor additions to their attacks. So there's still some consistency in the encounter design, and the game won't force you into absurd, randomized fights. There are some unexpected changes to be had, but they are sparse as to not become obnoxious. And while some of the higher level ninjas or humanoid fiends may hit harder, your attacks when used properly will do just as much damage to them as well, preventing fights from becoming long slogs due to damage sponges.
- The Lesser Shadow Clan Ninja are non existant, with the regular Shadow Clan Ninja being the primary enemies in chapter 1
- The regular Shadow Clan Ninja's former position is thus taken over by Black Spider Ninja, meaning you'll be dealing with incendiary shuriken and grabs during the very beginning of the game.
- The Mages are unchanged physically, but they will now fire 3 projectiles in quick succession, so dodge timing is different slightly. The projectile count will actually increase as the difficulty increases, with it culminating in seven projectiles on Master Ninja.
- While unchanged during chapter 3, Chapter 4 upgrades the SAT troops into MSAT, with upgraded power and the MSAT grenadiers getting a tan color instead of blue like the regular ones.
- Bast Fiends, speedy cat like enemies, will spawn in place of Lesser Imp Fiends during the early game as well as certain fights that were originally fought against Black Spider Ninja. They are faster than even the SAT Fiends, and have their own version of the Flying Swallow and Guillotine Throw. A head on attack is almost always ineffective, requiring careful spacing and timing to intercept their attacks and open them up for a combo.
- During the latter half of the game, Gallas will be replaced as the defacto large enemy by the Ogres. They're the largest enemies in the entire game, swing a huge club, and their head piece is its own hurtbox where, if destroyed, will cause the Ogre to become agitated and way more dangerous. Overhead swings or airborne attacks are ill advised if you want to avoid this, but if you want to end things with the most damaging weapons you'll have to accept it and get good at dodging.
- Ghost Fish will spawn in select areas where Bats originally were located, which is always after the player has acquired the Vigoorian Flails so that they can be combatted effecitvely. They will even spawn out of certain chests if you're not careful.
- The new Doppleganger Fiend will appear at 3 specific points during the campaign: The Archive Room in Chapter 6, the Peristyle Passage in Chapter 10, and the area after exiting the Hayabusa Village in Chapter 13. More info about the Doppleganger Fiend further down.
In the original Ninja Gaiden, the boss fights didn't get a significant change in difficulty that wasn't just higher damage values on their attacks. You could still fight them exactly as you did on Normal. Black throws that concept out the window by adding support enemies during the fights. Yes. The boss isn't fighting you alone, they've got their lackeys to distract you.
This is something of an evolution of the concept introduced in the Masakado fight, and a bit of Marbus too, but with some more strict rules regarding the implementation. For start, only two enemies spawn at the beginning, and the regular enemy count cannot go higher than that during the battle. If you kill the two enemies, that will be it and you can fight the boss uninterrupted. That is, until they lose a quarter of their health, at which point two new enemies will spawn.
However, because of the rules set in place for limiting enemies on the field, you can ignore the starting enemies to focus on the boss (good luck with that), and so if you kill an enemy when the boss has, say, 60% HP left, the next enemy that is queued up enters the scene. So it's more of a waiting list for the trash mobs as opposed to them being dumped haphazardly. Two more enemies will always be added to the queue when each quarter of the bosses health is lost.
This change in boss fights still works really well here, because while at first the regular enemies appear to be no more than distracting, there purpose during the battle, especially when killed, opens up some new strategies. For instance, you now have a source of essence with which you can potentially use an Ultimate Technique. Or better yet, attacking an enemy while the boss is in range will have a high chance of registering that damage to the boss itself, due to the way the hitboxes work and the fact that the game is not registering the boss as the primary target, meaning it won't be on full 100% defense constantly. Sometimes the bosses attacks might end up killing its own lackeys in the process. It's like discovering holes in the logic of the game's systems, but it feels good when you do it, because at the end of the day every boss exploits shit to some degree, so it's only fair for a ninja to do the same. Fuck honor.
So the enemies are updated, and they join in during the boss fights as well. But there's one more unique foe thrown into the mix. The Doppleganger Fiend (not Fiend Ryu, as is possible to misinterpret). Ayane leaves a special Kunai Scroll at the entrance to the Monastery describing a new foe that has the ability to perfectly copy the abilities of another, and from that point on specific chapters will feature special fights with this enemy.
Ninja Gaiden never really had anything in the way of a rival character, like other character action games like Devil May Cry. There never was a recurring foe in Ryu's journey that could be seen as his equal and a constant foil during the game. The doppleganger isn't that, unfortunately. It is exactly what the name implies, a clone. You are fighting against yourself and not a foe that is similar yet still unique in its own right. But this alternative is still one of the most fun encounters ever made in any action game. There is so little in the way of exploit or cheesing against a foe that knows your moves better than you. You have to stay on top of everything this clone will throw at you, and it makes moments where you open it up at the right moment for an Izuna Drop all the more sweet.
Of course, just like all the other bosses, the Doppleganger Fiend does a bit of cheating itself. While it only uses the weapon it has visibly equipped to its back, it has access to every projectile in the game, and can switch between either Art of the Inferno or Fire Wheels for Ninpo. You also can't impale it on the ground should you knock it down. But everything else about it, works exactly the same as Ryu does in the player's hands. Of course, as it is AI the Doppleganger does a good job of staying on the defensive and minimizing on wasted frames. Trust me, you play through at least one of these fights, and you'll get a feel for the excitement that comes from playing a competitive fighting game.
The rewards you get for collecting Golden Scarabs change each difficulty, but the last two always stay the same. These are two extra weapons that don't really give you much advantage over anything, especially when they're acquired so late in the game, but they are nice bonuses that are also available during certain battles in Mission Mode, so it's a good idea to explain what they are.
Plasma Saber Mk. II
An upgraded version of the Plasma Saber, in which the plasma oscillator has been tuned to the maximum.
This is just a reskin of the True Dragon Sword, alas. The Plasma Saber was originally part of the "Ninja of the Future" skin featured only in the original version of Ninja Gaiden, but since the costume was dropped due to its tacky-ness, the devs decided to still keep the sword since that part was cool. It's a light saber essentially, with cool oscillating sound effect when it swings. Other than that, it's not too special.
Dark Dragon Blade
An evil blade that has been sealed away by the Hayabusa Ninja Clan. Chaos brings out its hellish power.
This is an interesting weapon when put next to Ryu's arsenal, as despite being a late game unlockable that is only useable in the final two chapters, it has the highest attack power of any weapon. Including the Unlabored Flawlessness (without the low health bonus). With its extremely small moveset, it's made up for with some unique charge attacks and its combos having a high stun rate on enemies. It also swings fairly fast too, though because of how short the combos are, you'll have to contend with the recovery animations happening very frequently. Of course, outside of the campaign certain missions in Mission Mode allow for its use, and a better demonstration of its power.
Golden Scarab Rewards
Unlike all the other items in the game, Golden Scarabs remain in the same locations on all difficulties, and the different rewards on each level informs the kind of challenge the game wants to impose on the player. In Hard Mode's case, items that were simply acquired on the critical path are now locked behind scarab rewards, meaning things like technique scrolls cannot be acquired at the same time they used to, and a tool like the Spear Gun is not available unless you've kept up on every scarab as they've shown up.
- 1 Scarab - Technique Scroll - Counter Attacks
- 5 Scarabs - Technique Scroll - Izuna Drop
- 10 Scarabs - Technique Scroll - Guillotine Throw
- 15 Scarabs - Windmill Shuriken
- 20 Scarabs - Wooden Sword
- 25 Scarabs - Dabilahro
- 30 Scarabs - Armlet of Celerity
- 35 Scarabs - Spear Gun
- 40 Scarabs - Armlet of Benediction
- 45 Scarabs - Armlet of Fortune
- 49 Scarabs - Plasma Saber Mk. II
- 50 Scarabs - Dark Dragon Blade
An enormous evil clouds the sky, as even greater threats loom in the distance, sharpening their fangs and talons. Those who wish to attain mastery in the Ninja arts must be able to eliminate these monstrosities without hesitation.
A bigger step up from the last difficulty, higher damage from enemies is the last thing you'll be worrying about. This mode introduces new limitations on tactics you may have grown accustomed to in order to get this far.
After completing Normal and Hard, you'd become used to how many elixers you can carry and possibly even rely on having your inventory topped off so you can power through the really hard sections. Very Hard throws a wrench in that mentality by straight up cutting your maximum capacity for each item by about half. Elixers of Spiritual Life are now cut down to 6, Great Elixers of Life and Elixers of Devil Way cut to 3, and Great Elixers of Devil way cut down to 2. Even the Talismans of Rebirth are cut down by one. Thankfully projectiles are not affected by this, just anything that would be able to heal Ryu. So get better at not being hit, or just be lucky with blue essence drops from enemies.
- Shadow Clan Ninja are no longer the primary foe in Chapter 1, instead replaced by the unique Windmill Ninja. They're recognizable based on their purple garb, enhanced moves, and a windmill shuriken that they'll use to catch you off guard.
- The Silver Samurai replace the original samurai with superior armor, but this doesn't prolong fighting them much longer than it could be. Assuming you can get past their perfect blocking.
- Once in Tairon, the Black Spider Clan fights are replaced by the toughest ninja enemies, the Flame Ninja. A reskin of the Black Spider Ninja, they have impeccable defenses, the same moves, and their sword strikes set you on fire for the most damage possible from this enemy type. The most formidable and challenging human enemies.
- Like the MSAT, Very Hard introduces the Mechanized Vigoorian Soldiers, complete with shiny chrome armor, higher chances of perform grab attacks, and one of the biggest "fuck you" moves to anyone that relied on the Flying Swallow all the way in Vanilla. Doing this move towards the non-RPG wielding soldiers will have Ryu impaled on their bayonet for huge damage, requiring a ground approach for damage.
- Bast Fiends get a slight color change and increased power, turning them into Greater Bast Fiends
- A new type of fiend is introduced during the Aquaduct, replacing most of the encounters with the regular Imp Fiends. The Shadow Imp Fiends have all the same moves as their brethren with the addition of one dangerous attack that punishes players that turtle. The fiend will do a forward slide around the arena, usually chaining two together, and if Ryu's in the way of it he'll get tripped up and take serious damage as the slide transitions into a grab. They also have better reflexes than the regular Imp Fiends, so intercepting them mid attack is vital to defeating them.
- One step up from the Ogres are the coolest looking enemies in the game, the Vigoorian Berserkers. There is a lot that goes on with these guys. For start, they wield a huge fuck-off sword that always guard breaks on hit, so counter attacks are out of the question (unless you're playing Sigma). They've got a variety of swings, and if they're out of range they'll create a circle below Ryu that erupts to deal massive damage. When you deal enough damage to it the Berserker will, as its name implies, go berserk and turn black. The ferocity of its attacks increase as well as it gaining a charge move that can transition into a UT style multi slash combo. And while there are certain fights where multiple Berserkers are in the arena, they are the only enemy that follows DMC rules of not attacking when off camera. So if you can manipulate the camera just right you can focus your efforts on one Berserker at a time and reduce the headache that comes from facing them the first time. But of course, as you get more experienced these fights become some of the most exhilirating.
- The Masakado boss fight is altered so that the health bar displayed on screen disappears after dealing 50% damage, causing the fight to continue with Masakado on foot, who fights like a buffed up Samurai enemy. Prior to this, Mages spawn in two at a time and don't respawn until a quarter of the boss's health is lost.
- The Reptile Fish in the Zarkhan Moat have metalic armor applied to them, making them the Greater Reptile Fish and are therefore immune to the spear gun. Melee hits are the only way to beat them.
- The Doppleganger Fiend gets an additional fight, in the area inbetween Muramasa's shop and the doorway to Zarkhan.
- During the Chapter 15 Boss Rush, the Hydracubus and Yotunfrau are replaced by Nicchae and Ishtaros respectively. More below.
Introduced originally during the Master Ninja Tournament Finals and the second Hurricane Pack, these two fiends are the most formidable post game foes when combined. Of course, fighting two at once is only reserved for a battle in mission mode, as the fights with them on Very Hard and Master Ninja has you facing them one at a time.
Nicchae is clone of the first Alma fight through and through. While she does hit harder by nature of her being an Ancient Greater Fiend, because she's based on the original boss fight her windows of opening are similar. In fact, it's potentially easier to get damage on her than it is compared to either Alma fight. Still, it being based on one of the better fights in the game makes her an enjoyable fight. But she's not the real threat. That's reserved for her sister.
This right here is it. The hardest boss conceived in any version of Ninja Gaiden 1. A fitting honor considering her entirely unique moveset and tactics. In fact, she feels almost like a proper bridge between the fights in Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, as she pushes the combat engine to its limits with her extremely aggressive AI and attacks. It's a better example in that respect than Gamov, as there are still plenty of ways to take her on and the fight doesn't devolve into abusing one single tactic.
- Ishtaros uses a combination of her whip arm, claws, and kicks to attack, and the mix ups from her are quite strong and hard to see coming. The first hit of them always guard break, and dodge rolling afterwards needs to be properly timed to not get knocked back.
- At long range, Ishtaros has a special laser attack that despite having a wind up is always tracking Ryu's position right until it fires. Dodging at the last possible moment is vital.
- Periodically, Ishtaros will jump and swing around the perimeter of the arena with her whip arm. The time she spends swinging will vary, especially if you're close enough for her to hit you mid swing. It always ends with her swinging up into the air and then crashing down with a powerful dive kick. While this is possibly the hardest move to dodge due to it coming from off camera, this is actually the best chance to retaliate as you'll have ample time to charge up a 360 UT with the Dragon Sword, and release it rigth as she comes crashing down. If you're still struggling through the fight, this is a good tactic to rely on in order to make up for lost heatlh on your end.
On Very Hard, the focus of the Golden Scarab rewards are Ninpo and Ninpo related upgrades. Getting useful skills like the Art of the Inazuma is only possible if you've collected every scarab as they appeared. Because of how much harder the enemies are here, this mode can be seen as trying to beat out players' reliance on Ninpo by locking them behind hidden rewards.
- 1 Scarab - Art of the Inferno
- 5 Scarabs - Spirit of the Devils
- 10 Scarabs - Art of the Ice Storm
- 15 Scarabs - Jewel of the Demon Seal
- 20 Scarabs - Spirit of the Devils
- 25 Scarabs - Jewel of the Demon Seal
- 30 Scarabs - Armlet of Fortune
- 35 Scarabs - Jewel of the Demon Seal
- 40 Scarabs - Art of the Inazuma
- 45 Scarabs - Spirit of the Devils
- 49 Scarabs - Plasma Saber Mk. II
- 50 Scarabs - Dark Dragon Blade
The highest plateau amongst the ranks of Ninja...Master Ninja. This is a journey to Hell, so intense it defies description in the lowly tongues of men. Can you overcome the tribulations before you and achieve the ultimate honor?
This is it. There's no major reward for beating this difficulty other than the pride and joy you'll feel upon completing it. In all fairness, it is a marginal increase in difficulty over Very Hard, as opposed to the other difficulty jumps. But this also means that the beginning chapters will be the hardest hurdle to overcome, and if you can get past that you'll still have enemies with their reflexes and attack power at their maximum potential. I've only ever completed it once (a few months prior to actually starting this LP) and even then completing all the combat challenges and getting every upgrade was something I had to pass on.
Golden Scarab Rewards
On Master Ninja, the rewards for collecing scarabs could be seen as less than rewarding. There are two opportunities to get smoke bombs from here, and with the exception of the last two rewards everything else is one of every kind of disposable item, including the Ayane variants. Of course, the latter could be useful to have once reaching the end game, but if you're gonna be extremely reserved with item used the first half of the rewards aren't even going to fit in your inventory. You need actual skill and perserverance to get through this mode and not some rewards for trading in some gold colored bugs.
- 1 Scarab - Smoke Bomb
- 5 Scarabs - Elixer of Spiritual Life
- 10 Scarabs - Great Spirit Elixer
- 15 Scarabs - Elixer of the Devil Way
- 20 Scarabs - Great Devil Elixer
- 25 Scarabs - Smoke Bomb
- 30 Scarabs - Ayane's Rations
- 35 Scarabs - Fragrance of Dayflower
- 40 Scarabs - Ayane's Ration Bundle
- 45 Scarabs - Fragrance of Hydrangea
- 49 Scarabs - Plasma Saber Mk. II
- 50 Scarabs - Dark Dragon Blade
Ninja Gaiden Arcade
Itagaki decided that because NG Vanilla already had the NES trilogy as unlockables that Black should have something slightly different. This is the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden that came out the same year as the NES port, and like arcade/console games of that era they differ quite a bit. While the NES games were more like hyper fast versions of Castlevania, this is a 2D beat em up, pre Final Fight/Streets of Rage. So much worse and boring.
I mean, in a way it's still pretty novel since at the time of Black's release Ninja Gaiden Arcade had never received a faithful home port, so as a curiousity I don't mind it. But the amount of time I spent playing this for the video should be pretty evident that it's not the thing most people will recognize or want.
- Doppleganger - The outfit used by the Doppleganger Fiend on Hard and up, this costume is unlocked after beating the game once. Because these outfits' names aren't documented in game, fans of come up with a couple of names over the years, Dragon Muscle being one of them. There is another name for it called "Ashtar Ryu", which anyone that is familiar with the original Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, part 2 in particular, the name Ashtar will ring a few bells just from looking at the head gear.
- Red Muffler - This outfit is used by the Doppleganger Fiend if you're already wearing the Doppleganger costume, and this is earned upon beating the game on Hard. This is an interesting costume as it's not based on anything that existed in any Ninja Gaiden game, so it feels unique, almost concept art like. However, a common theory by fans including myself is that this outfit is design as an homage to Hotsuma, the protagonist of the kick ass PS2 Shinobi game, in which the main character's defining feature is its flowing red scarf. The rest of the outfit doesn't match Hotsuma exactly, but the red scarf is enough to make that inspiration seem reasonable.
- Ryukenden - Earned upon beating the game on Very Hard, this is Ryu's original outfit all the way back in the NES trilogy. There really isn't much else to say about it design wise other than it looks very simple and nice.
- Dead or Alive - This outfit is unlocked upon completing the Eternal Legend in Mission Mode, this is Ryu's iconic DOA outfit introduced back in the second game. Even with the Legendary Black Falcon taking precedence from DOA Ultimate onward, this outfit has remained a staple in the series. It looks exactly as it does in the game fighting games with the addition of a face mask, to keep some consistency with the rest of the outfits. I'm guessing because the animators did not actually make any proper mouth animations for Ryu during his lines of dialogue. Would've been nice, though. Despite his muscles and all the blood he wades through, he's quite the pretty boy underneath that mask.
Mission Mode is the big addition to this game over the original, and is largely not based on anything that was featured in the two Hurricane Packs. These are combat challenges that you'll quickly find that, despite multiple difficulty options being present, the actual challenges themselves are much harder than what someone who just beat the game might be accustomed to. This is because unlike the main game, difficulty does not change the enemy arrangement, only the damage necessary for them to kill you faster. Playing through these even on Normal is sure to hone anyone's combat skill as they find new uses for their tools against unique enemy configurations.
The way the mode is set up is that missions are split into categories, with five missions each. The name of the category gives an indication on what the primary focus is on. At the start, only the first two are unlocked, and the missions can be tackled in any order. Once five missions are completed, the next set of five is unlocked, and this repeats for every five completed missions. Tackling these in the order they appear can be tricky due to there being no actual difficulty curve. There will no doubt be missions early on that destroy you while unlocked ones prove more manageable. But of course, part of that can be attributed to player skill improving.
There are 45 regular missions, and an extra long 46th mission that can actually be tackled after completing 40 missions. The mission categories are as follows.
Path of the Master Ninja
Ninja and Samurai are the primary enemies, and these missions regardless of difficulty will pull every kind of foe. From the lesser Shadow Ninja all the way up to the deadly Flame Ninja, these encounters have an edge to them that not even the main game provides. Especially Phase Four. On top of having more human enemies on screen than your average fight, you gotta take on a hundred of them. It's fun, but it is one of the hardest missions to take early on, and demonstrates clearly that the assumed intended order does not have a smooth difficulty curve.
Fiends take front and center in this category, specifically Fiend Bosses. These differ slightly from their main campaign versions (at least on Hard and up) is the variety of enemies summoned along with the overall quantity. Further demonstrating that because each mission only needs to load in one single, isolated stage the devs decided to take advantage of the remaining memory to push the intensity of the game's combat further.
Abysmal Lair is focused on fiend battles, all conveniently placed in sections featured in the Aquaduct chapter. Of the 5 phases in this category, three of them involve a worm fight and as such the game throws every reasonable combination at the player, culminating in two electric and one fire worm. Honestly, this category isn't very hard except for Phase 3 where you're in a somewhat cramped space that is occupied by an ogre. So the camera doesn't like to play fair here.
All military based, including tank and helicopter fights but with extra reinforcements. Though the one phase that will challenge you the most is the 100 enemy endurance test as that throws every possible SAT and Military enemy type at the player. Yes, including the mechanized soldiers with their Anti-Flying Swallow move, and fuck ton of rockets, so have fun with those.
Descent of the Fiends
A kind of grab bag of various fiend and boss encounters that it's fairly hard to give it a short and easy descriptor, though the best I think can be said is that they're all "mid level" encounters. Nothing from the start or the end. Phase 5 however deserves special mention as it is based on the Master Ninja Tournament Finals, the special combat challenge that was made for the top scoring US, Europe, and Japan players of the Vanilla game to play in front of a live audience at TGS 2004. Seriously, I still can't believe a game like that which isn't a competitive multiplayer game was able to have something like that happen. So cool.
As the name implies, the primary enemies are Alma (both versions), Nicchae, and Ishtaros, so fiends of the female persuasion. Although there is a gimmick mission in phase 3 where the player must protect Rachel, who's been chained up at the top of the pyramid near Zarkhan. It's a weird way of mixing things up.
All Doppleganger fights, four of which can be encountered in the campaign on higher difficulties (though the Dabilahro and Viggorian Flail dopplegangers are in different arenas). There is however a Doppleganger in phase 5 that uses the Lunar, which is pretty neat though not that much harder than all the others in this category.
Battlefield of the Abyss
Like Descent of the Fiends, this is a grab bag of fiend battles that involve late game encounters, or in the case of Phase 5, an encounter that the main game never even thought to include due to its insanity. If you thought fighting against one Doppleganger was fun yet intense, try throwing two into the mix. It's crazy, but it's only a prelude to what a player can expect in the next category.
Giants of the Underworld
A category of missions focused on fighting two boss fights, a concept that I can only hope that the devs thought long and hard about whether they were going too far, before Itagaki said it was fine and do it anyway. That said, there is some thought put into these missions as again, they're limited to only two at once, but those two fill different roles that cover the others weaknesses fairly well. The one fight that might be the most manageable though is Nicchae + Alma, as both are literally the exact same but with the former dealing more damage overall, so it's at least easy to prioritize who to take down. I can guarantee though that finishing these fights is satisfying beyond belief, but even I can't recreate that success again easily.
The last category in the Mission Mode, although it's not a set of five missions. It's a single mission. What is the Eternal Legend you ask?
Wait a little longer and you'll see.